Trolleybus 491 climbs Ringstead RoadTrolleybus route 654


Routemaster replaces trolleybuses

As is well known, the original intention of London Transport was that the Routemaster would be used for all phases of the trolleybus conversion, but it was not available in time for the first three stages.  As a result, the RM never ran from Carshalton Depot.  However, as a taste of what might have been, we will be operating an AEC-engined Routemaster on the 654 on 15 April.  It will run as CN3 as part of the published 154 timetable, with the addition of an early journey from Crystal Palace.



The 654 route from Sutton to Crystal Palace started life in 1906 as two South Met tram routes from Croydon, the 5 to Crystal Palace and the 7 to Sutton.  Open-top trams ran on the routes until 1935, when they formed part of the first phase of the new LPTB's scheme to replace trams with trolleybuses. 


One of the late 1936 batch of 5 B1s, 491 climbs Ringstead Road in Sutton away from the depot situated on Westmead Road at the foot.   Photo © David Bradley


London United had already introduced trolleybuses in the Kingston area; the first LPTB routes were the Bexleyheath routes in November 1935 and the 654 on the 9th December.  Initially, trolleybuses ran only to Croydon, as the Crystal Palace tram route climbed Anerley Hill and it was decided that (like the trams) the trolleybuses required coasting and run-back brakes.  When these were fitted and sufficient trolleybuses were available, the remainder of the route opened on 8 February 1936.  The palace itself was served only for 10 months, as it burned down on 30 November that year.


The 654 service interval was 4 to 7 minutes in 1936, later extended to 5 to 8 minutes, and required 26 trolleybuses.  These formed the only allocation at Sutton Depot (later Carshalton Depot).  All were of the class B1, which unlike most London trolleybuses were short wheelbase 60-seaters rather than the standard 70.  Thirty B1s (64-93), Leylands with BRCW bodies, were delivered in 1935/6 and a further batch of five (489-493) arrived in mid-1936.  A few J3s, fitted with special brakes for Highgate Hill, were drafted in temporarily in 1958, but otherwise the B1s had the 654 to themselves.


From 1949, after the Diddlers were withdrawn, the Carshalton trolleybuses were the oldest in the fleet, so it is not surprising that the route was selected for early conversion to motorbuses.  Along with the separate Bexleyheath routes, the 654 finished operation in the early hours of 4 March 1959, replaced by the 154.


For further information on the 654 including a schematic route map - and a wealth of information and pictures of trolleybuses - visit David Bradley's excellent site.